The Power of Faith in Intangible Money
As a child, seeing my mother purchase food for the family and work late hours made me understand that money was crucial to everyday living. However, one day I saw the need for money intensify when I witnessed people with sorrowful faces stretching out their hands for spare change. That image stuck with me forever and my view on money was how much it was the center our lives. Never would I have thought that our money’s value was based on our faith and the idea of money was all in our heads.
In the media, money is often viewed as corrupting and controlling over people’s lives. Yet, according to Brazilian’s economic history, money is actually controlled by people’s faith. Brazil once faced economic crisis because of a huge inflation. According to NPR Broadcast’s “The Invention of Money,” the government printed too much money, which lowered the value of it and made it difficult for the citizens to afford goods. A memorable story from the broadcast was when people rushed in to buy food before the sticker man placed the changed prices. You could image the horror of having your cash loosing its value each day; people lost faith in their currency.
The surprising solution to this was introducing fake money, called Unit of Real Value, also called urv. By making the prices of the items in urv, the prices was able to stabilize. Gradually, more people started to use the fake money and have more trust in the currency. As a result, urv became the official type of money and people were able to finally afford things. This plan was successful because people had faith it, which demostrates how much power people had over money.
While Brazil suffered inflation, Japan experienced the opposite. Japan had a problem where people were not spending enough money, making the economy slow. In Hiroko Tabuchi’s article, “Japan Approves $116 Billion for Urgent Economic Stimulus,” it stated that the government was “pumping mor e money into the economy” so that the Japanese people could spend more. Though Japan is already in debt, Japan has a lot of problems to overcome such as the shrinking population and income. Consequently, the government is putting much effort in doing their best to give people a better income and more job opportunities by spending even more money. Clearly, the value of money in a country is heavily weighted on the people.
Another thing I realized is the value of money is decided in our minds whether we are able to hold it in our hands or not. For example, according to the broadcast there is this island called Yap, and the civilians there use gorgeous limestone sculptures as currency. What is interesting about their type of currency is the variety of sizes of the stone money . Another thing that is fascinating is the larger the stone, the more it is worth and it has even gone to a point where these stones would be created taller than the person who owns them; being too heavy to carry, people would usually stick a pole through a hole in the stone money and with the help of multiple people, roll it to places or they would leave the money in one place. If the money stays in one place, how could the owner purchase anything? There is actually no need for documentation or an exchange of papers, but to announce the transaction in front of the villagers and the purchase would be complete. What makes these stone money valuable is the fact that limestone is not found anywhere in the island. The people have to sail to another small island and make the stone money and sail back to Yap with the heavy stones. There was an incident where one of the heavy stones had to be dropped off the boat due to a vicious storm and the stone sank to the bottom of the ocean. Despite it never returning to the island, it is still valuable and part of the owner’s wealth. I thought that the people should at least be skeptical. After all, what if the person lied about making the huge stone, what if it doesn’t exist?But then I soon realized how much of my money didn’t exist as well.
The NPR broadcaster did a wonderful job at demonstrating how much of the money in America did not exist when he asked how much money is out there. People couldn’t even count that because the money in the bank is given to other people to borrow. What we truly have is only a number on a piece of paper or on a computer system of the amount we have, but physically we do not own it.
Ultimately, I find it really scary that the amount of money we technically own isn’t physically out there as ours but I am also relieved that when things go wrong, people are the one who truly accept and decide the value of money.
Joffe-Walt, Chana. “How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” Npr.org. NPR, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 6 Sept. 2015
Krugman, Paul. “The Curious Case of Japan’s Economic Stimulus.”Truthout. Truthout, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Japan Approves $116 Billion for Urgent Economic Stimulus.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
“The Invention of Money | This American Life.” This American Life. N.p., 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 04 Sept. 2015.